Is Shopify Right for Everyone?

Disclaimer: The service I provide is developing Shopify websites for clients.

E-commerce (aka e-tailing) is the big thing right now. Amazon has long been a dominant force, however, for a number of years competitors and different options have been springing up. Not only can companies sell their goods on Amazon itself (or eBay for that matter), but there are a number of other platforms that can be set up.

In fact, there are so many platform options out there that it can be difficult to decide on one in particular – as many of the systems offer similar capabilities at the basic level. There are so many options that I won’t be able to cover everything here; if you are considering getting into e-commerce. However, I will go over a few options and the pros and cons of each.

Amazon

Lets tackle the elephant in the room first. Amazon – since Amazon was founded in 1994 as an online book retailer, the company has become the largest internet company in the world by revenue. As will be obvious, their primary business is still e-commerce, and they allow different companies to sell on their marketplace. Some companies only sell on Amazon. What are the pros and cons?

Pros:

• Your products get to be associated with Amazon, a brand that is trusted internationally
• Amazon has the Amazon FBA program as an option; the Fulfilled By Amazon program charges you a fee, and they let you store your products at their Distribution Centres, their warehouse staff handle product fulfillment 
• You do not need to host or design an e-commerce website, since you will be using Amazon’s system

Cons:

• Amazon is in charge of their algorithms, and you have to play along with their rules which can sometimes be quite stringent, and often change (https://mywifequitherjob.com/the-dangers-of-selling-on-amazon/)
• While you don’t have to develop/design an e-commerce website, that also means that you have very limited control over how your products appear, and you cannot customize pop-ups etc that you may wish to have
• Companies have to pay fees to sell on Amazon, and more to be part of the FBA program.

Magento

Another elephant - Magento is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms. Originally developed by Varien, Inc. Magento has been recently purchased by Adobe.

Pros:

• Professional support from a major company. The purchase by Adobe is significant for an e-commerce platform in terms of the resources and support they can provide
• Open Source: There is a basic version of Magento called Magento Open Source (meaning the source code can be accessed by developers). This basic version can be accessed for free. The other version, Magento Commerce, is aimed at Enterprise clients (and is very expensive).

Cons:

• User Interface – I have had professional experience using Magento at the enterprise level, and I can say that the User Interface was not good. If you’re concerned about User Experience, this should be something to take into consideration.
• Expense – the Commerce versions of Magento can be very expensive to purchase and implement.
• No hosting – hosting is not included with any version of Magento.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a very popular e-commerce platform. It is a free Wordpress plugin developed by Automattic, the company behind the Wordpress blogging/website platform.

Pros:

• Free.
• Open Source – This makes the WooCommerce easy for developers to customize the plugin.
• Professional – for a free plugin, WooCommerce can provide a very professional looking e-commerce website based on Wordpress.
• Ease of Use – WooCommerce features and easy to use admin. panel.

Cons:

• Security – Wordpress as a popular Open Source platform has a number of concerning security vulnerabilities (here is a list of a few of them https://ithemes.com/2017/01/16/wordpress-security-issues/), security concerns should be top of mind for anyone considering starting an e-commerce company
• No hosting – the basic Wordpress platform does not include hosting.
• Expertise required – while WooCommerce can be very customizeable one must be familiar with the ins and outs of Wordpress, Wordpress plugin structure, and WooCommerce. Essentially you need to be OK with doing some basic development on your own for full customization, or you have to hire someone.

Solidus

Solidus is a free Open Source platform maintained by Developers; many of the core Development team for Solidus are employed by a company called Stembolt.

Pros:

• Open Source – As previously mentioned, Solidus is Open Source which means it is quite flexible for development needs.
• Professional – Maintained by a team of professional developers.
• Built to scale – Solidus is aimed at large enterprise clients, and high-volume stores.
• Extensions – There are a number of easily accessible extensions available.

Cons:

• No hosting – Hosting is not included as part of the platform.
• Lack of Community – Although there are extensions, because Solidus isn’t one of the more popular platforms, it may be more difficult to find support from the community outside of Stembolt if you have questions.
• Because Solidus is aimed at larger, enterprise clients, it may not be as easy to setup and use as other platforms out of the box.

Shopify

Another elephant in the room. Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms.

Pros:

• Ease of Use – Shopify was intentionally designed to be user-friendly from the outset. 
• Fully hosted – Shopify websites are fully hosted and the servers are managed by Shopify, this significantly increases security.
• Large Community – As one of the most popular platforms, Shopify boasts a large and active community that one can learn from.

Cons:

• Not Open Source – Shopify source code is closed (although they allow some access to their APIs for developers). While this significantly increases security, it obviously cuts down on how much one can customize the platform. If companies have specific needs for their data, and need to control their data all the way, then Shopify might not be for them.
• Not free – There are monthly subscription fees that companies are required to pay, but this does include the hosting.
• Limited features at lower tiers – The more basic pricing tiers do not include more advanced features, which can potentially increase costs, depending on what clients require for features.

In conclusion, Shopify is not for everyone – it depends on your specific company needs, and how comfortable you are as a developer (or how willing you are to hire a developer) as to whether or not you should choose Shopify or another platform.

I hope you found this basic overview helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to fill out the Contact Form on this website and send me an e-mail, I’d be happy to get back to you and do my best to answer any further questions you may have regarding e-commerce options.

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